Famously, Tom Lehrer said that satire died the day that Henry Kissinger was named winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.
What Lehrer might have made of Croydon being presented with an award for being Britain’s best local planning authority probably could not be repeated on a family-orientated publication such as Inside Croydon.
We like to think of it as the Lie Back And Think of Westfield Trophy.
The award was presented yesterday evening at the notorious MIPIM UK benefit bash for billionaire developers and overseas property investors which is being staged in central London.
Overseen by Estates Gazette, Croydon “beat off”, if that’s the correct expression, opposition from Southwark and Sunderland. Southwark’s permanently prostate positioning for Lend Lease and the social cleansing of the old Heygate Estate places into context craven Croydon’s crawling to the likes of John Laing, Barratt’s and Redrow.
For Croydon is the “award-winning” local authority with a “black hole of debt” (copyright Mike “#WadGate” Fisher), created largely by its disastrous £450 million CCURV regeneration experiment which has been done in “partnership” with Laing, and which has included building the country’s most expensive council offices, for a cool £220 million.
And the You-Couldn’t-Make-It-Up meter went off the scale as Croydon collected the planning award on the same day that rush hour commuters experienced two-hour delays in traffic jams along the Wellesley Road following two serious road traffic accidents (one of which was fatal).
The reasons for the accidents may be a matter for discussion at some other time, but in the aftermath, as diversions were put in place, the chaos in central Croydon was caused, in part at least, by the “improvement” works that have just started along London Road, just as West Croydon’s bus station has been closed for redevelopment, displacing 23 bus routes, and all their passengers. This is what passes for “planning” in “award-winning” Croydon.
Estates Gazette had hired the ever-busy Clare Balding to present their awards. Presumably no one asked the ubiquitous television presenter and keen cyclist what she thought of Croydon’s planning department having replaced the bike lanes along South End with extra car parking spaces. Because that is what passes for “planning” in “award-winning” Croydon.
Croydon received its award for planning on the same day that the marketing department behind The Island, aka IYLO, the residential tower block at the centre of a traffic island, took to Twitter to state: “Island is a contemporary 20-storey tower offering cinematic views of Croydon around it!”
“Cinematic”? Seriously? David Lean must be spinning.
The Island tower block owners guarantee their investors that none of its executive apartments will be occupied by those on benefits. This is what passes for “planning” in “award-winning” Croydon.
Even the MP for Lambeth South, Steve Reed OBE, was having a whinge about Croydon’s planning process during the day, distancing himself as far as possible from a decision taken, against his and a Norbury residents’ association’s pleadings, not to allow the expansion of a branch of Paddy Power bookmakers.
Of course, all council planning committees are severely limited in what they can do legally to block unwanted developments, something which requires amendment through legislation in parliament, where Reed sits as an MP. Will Reed be pushing Labour to hand more planning powers back to local authorities to halt the expansion of High Street bookies, as in Norbury? Don’t bet on it, as one former council leader never said.
Croydon’s planning award is, of course, entirely tokenistic and was a foregone conclusion once the council’s planning director, Jo Negrini, agreed to give a talk to MIPIM UK with the laughably absurd title that suggests that our impecunious borough is an “economic powerhouse” in the south-east.
When other Labour-controlled London boroughs were boycotting MIPIM UK because of the manner in which it encourages the handing over of public property to private developers, Negrini and her boss on the council, the entrepreneurial Nathan Elvery, gave it their full support.
Australian-born Negrini was appointed to her senior council position soon after the Australian-based shopping mall developers Westfield established their £1 billion interest in central Croydon. Yesterday, she gave an interview for the PR spinners behind MIPIM UK to justify her and Croydon’s appearance at the conference.
Watch the video and see what she thought she might achieve by being at the three-day conference. “We don’t have a development pipeline of office,” she said.
And in the midst of a London housing crisis, she says that, “It’s quite easy to build lots of houses.” Oh yes. She even emphasised the point. “It is generally quite an easy thing to do.” Which prompts sooo many questions…
It is telling that even in such a brief, three-minute clip, there are so many jump-cuts in the edit presented publicly. What could they have been cutting out? Were they doing re-takes to ensure that the correct “party line” was being taken?
And doesn’t Negrini appear distracted, frequently looking away from her interviewer? Is she bored? Maybe in the re-telling, even she has become unconvinced by the bullshit.
One thing is abundantly clear. Somewhere along the line, the people at MIPIM UK, Estates Gazette and our own Croydon Council have clearly confused the idea of a local authority undertaking its planning duties, and a sales pitch to flog off chunks of the borough to speculators. The difference ought to be important.
- “Radically pragmatic” Negrini exhibits award-winning chutzpah
- Londoners being priced out of London by social cleansing
- ‘Flat-broke’ councils all set for MIPIM’s champagne reception
- Croydon’s “only a Championship location” says planning chief
Coming to Croydon
- 21st annual Croydon and Sutton Beer Festival, Oct 16-18
- Cinema Ruskin film show, Oct 18
- South Croydon business breakfast, Oct 18
- Purley War Memorial Hospital health fair, Oct 18
- Maya Angelou tribute concert, Fairfield Halls, Oct 18
- Wandle Park wildflower meadow project, Oct 19
- St John’s, Shirley, charity concert, Oct 19
- South London Jobs Fair, Fairfield Halls, Oct 21
- David Lean Cinema: Mood Indigo, Oct 23
- This Was The World and I Was King, Spread Eagle, Oct 23-25
- Upper Norwood Library Book Club, 2.30pm, Oct 25
- David Lean Cinema: Ilo Ilo, Oct 28
- CODA’s Wind In The Willows, Charles Cryer, Carshalton, Oct 29-Nov 1
- David Lean Cinema: Belle, Oct 30
- NHS free health fair, Central Parade, New Addington, Oct 31
- MOPAC policing meeting, Surrey Street, Nov 4
- Personal safety training for volunteers, Nov 4
- St Giles School opening morning, Nov 5
- Grange Park bulb-planting event, Nov 8
- Albert Einstein – Relativity Speaking, Spread Eagle, Nov 12-15
- South Croydon business breakfast, Nov 15
- Personal safety training for volunteers, Nov 17
- Norwood Society Talk: Lambeth’s Archives, Nov 20
- Choose Your Own Documentary, Spread Eagle Theatre, Nov 21-22
- The Last Sense of Sudden, Spread Eagle Theatre, Nov 27-29
- Ghost Stories for Christmas, Spread Eagle Theatre, Dec 3
- Fog Horn Funnies, Spread Eagle Theatre, Dec 6
- Coulsdon Yulefest, Dec 6-7
- South Croydon business breakfast, Dec 13
- South Croydon business breakfast, Jan 24
Inside Croydon: Croydon’s only independent news source, based in the heart of the borough: 407,847 page views (Jan-Jun 2014) If you have a news story about life in or around Croydon, a residents’ or business association or local event, please email us with full details at firstname.lastname@example.org